Friday, March 19, 2021

Congress Pushing for More Transparency on Foreign Funding of US Think Tanks

As foreign governments continue to flood US think tanks with money, some in the US Congress are demanding more transparency to shine a light on the influence that these entities have over policy shops.

Here is more from National Review:

A group of House Republicans [is introducing a] bill that subjects think tanks and research institutions to stricter disclosure requirements. If their proposal, set to be announced by Representative Lance Gooden and the Republican Study Committee — which initially called for these reforms in June — becomes law, it stands a chance at complicating...foreign-influence operations.

The Gooden bill will require think tanks to report any donations from foreign governments and political parties that exceed $50,000 annually, though its introduction reflects a growing concern on Capitol Hill about the CCP’s foreign-influence campaigns in particular.

The Gooden bill, in addition to making those disclosures mandatory above $50,000, requires that the Treasury Department create a publicly accessible database displaying the relevant think tanks’ ties to foreign governments.


Here is a press release about the bill from Lance Gooden (R-TX), and here is the text of the bill, which was introduced along with Jim Banks (R-IN) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).

Ben Freeman, Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative (FITI), said the language in the bill is "precisely what was recommended in its report entitled "Foreign Funding of Think Tanks in America."

Think Tank Watch should note that most major US think tanks already disclose their donors, including foreign governments.  However, some that do disclose will often release only a partial list of major donors above a certain monetary threshold, obfuscate certain donors as "anonymous," or even purposely leave certain donors off the list.

And as with anything that becomes law, there would be numerous loopholes.  For example, many think tankers often work at or run their own for-profit consultancies where money from foreign governments and other entities can be funneled to, thus avoiding any disclosure requirements.

Update: Here is a piece by Quincy Institute Senior Advisor Eli Clifton about the newly introduced bill.